The series will debut on TBS this fall and will pit four stars from the worlds of music, sports and pop culture against one another. At the end of each head-to-head battle, the studio audience will vote on the winner.
Corden, Method Man, Baldwin and Executive Producer Jensen Karp spoke about the series during Summer TCA last month in Beverly Hills. And in case Nick Cannon’s “Wild ‘n Out” comes to mind, Method Man wants you to know…
“Well, for one, Nick, that show…it’s kind of like the same, but a lot of the guests that Nick brings on, they are musically inclined,” he tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report correspondent Ny MaGee. “So the guests that we bring on, not all of them are in music. We have actors. Hell, we may even get an astronaut on there, you know, to get up there and spit if he’s got the guts to do it.”
Method Man (born Cliff Smith) is best known for his work as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He is also an actor whose credits include “Oz,” “The Wire,” “Luke Cage,” John Singleton’s BET series “Rebel,” as well as an upcoming role in David Simon’s porn drama “The Deuce.”
“I could have went in any direction that life took me, but I chose to hang around guys that liked to rap and smoke marijuana. But, you know, it’s gotten me to where I am now. So I guess I was lucky,” he says.
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When EUR asks the iconic rapper why now is the perfect time to “transition” into the world of TV hosting, he replies: “For me, transitioning between TV and — it’s all entertainment. So I don’t think there’s any line drawn that I can’t cross and still do me. I mean, Snoop Dogg does everything, everything, you know. It’s like you can’t even identify Snoop as a rapper anymore.”
For Method Man, the musical act that inspired him to get up for the first time and bust a rhyme: The Electric Company.
“The Electric Company,” “Sesame Street,” things like that. I would learn these jingles and genuinely got a love for music. Plus, my parents played music in the house, you know. I didn’t get up on Grandmaster Flash and all of those dudes until way later on. My real first hip-hop song that I learned every word to was Run D.M.C., “Sucker M.C.’s.”
So, what level of talent can viewers expect to see battle it out on the show? Corden explains:
“I think the most interesting thing about “Drop the Mic” when we first launched it was the first time we did it, it was on a Tuesday night with Anne Hathaway, and overnight it had been watched by, sort of, 6 — I think 6 million people had seen it in, sort of, 18 hours on YouTube after we’d done it on “The Late Late Show.”
Continuing, “David Schwimmer was booked on the show on that Thursday, and he called in the office and said, “I want to do that when I’m on the show.” And we would never normally do the same bits in a week. And then, on his flights from New York to L.A., he sent in a load of lyrics about me to which I said, “Right. It’s on. We are going to do it.” And then Rebel Wilson said, “Well, if he’s doing it, can I do it too?” And that’s been the whole experience of making the show, really, is people have gone, “This is great fun,” because it’s not trading insults. It’s trading joy and fun, really, because of this musicality.”
EP Jensen Karp agreed with one reporter who noted that just because you are a hip-hop star doesn’t necessarily mean you can be good at battle-rapping and vice versa.
“A lot of battle rappers are terrible when they release their albums,” says Karp, with Method Man agreeing, “Yeah, they are.” Adding, “And I think that has a lot to do with conditioning because they condition themselves to be in a battle type of arena. You can’t make a whole album full of battle raps, you know. And as far as mainstream guys like myself — I hate to use that word anyway, but — we tend to think song first, hook first, before we think of “We are going to tear this dude’s head off,” even though there’s lines in there that can lyrically tear somebody’s head off for sure.”
But Corden notes that “Drop The Mic” is not about “trading insults; it’s trading joy, because of its musicality.”
One TV critic took issue with that, noting that there is an inherent “mean spiritedness to it.”
“I think the opposite,” Corden fires back. “I don’t think it is a mean-spirited thing in the sense of if you watch, like, a roast on television, it is really just a monologue of hits and bobs where someone sort of sits and takes it. The beauty of this is the atmosphere in the room. The atmosphere in the room, the attitude of our two brilliant hosts is one of absolute joy and fun, and if you come at it with joy and fun and someone has got an opportunity to respond to stuff, it never ever has felt like that when we’ve done it on “The Late Late Show,” he explains.
“It’s never felt like that in the episodes we’ve shot now, and I think it will actually get less and less like that as the show grows in the manner that we hope it will. When you are in the room, doing it, there’s a joyfulness to it, which I believe is not in any way — I never think it’s mean. I think it’s fun jabs.”
Karp adds, “When I sit and write the raps with celebrities — and we have our writers’ room. Everyone comes in and helps and collaborates — you’d be surprised. Mayim Bialik, when we read her some of the ideas, she looked at us. She was, like, “You guys can go way harder on me.” So you’d be surprised how excited they are to get in there, and you can get away with so much just by rhyming.”
“Especially if the two people are friends, that makes it even better because there’s no holds barred then,” states Method Man. “So it’s never mean-spirited at all. Plus, we’ve got the beautiful Haley Baldwin. And anytime anybody is feeling down, they just take a look at her.”
When asked to share his dream list of guest stars, Corden said he’d love to see Judi Dench and Maggie Smith go head-to head.
“Just dame on dame… going at it, saying everything they’ve dreamt of saying for the last 30 years,” he says.
“It’s Biggie and Tupac,” Karp adds. “It only ends with murder.”